ICE League awards 3 champions, 4 MVPs, and $6,000 in scholarships

Eleven ICE League Academic All-Stars earned $6,000 in scholarships Thursday, surrounded by their League teammates, coaches, fans, family, and friends at the fourth annual ICE League championship tournament.

The foundation of the innovative Inner City Educational League is academics. Students must maintain a 2.5 or higher GPA to fully participate and to be eligible for the season awards. The basketball championship tournament, with the semifinal round on Wednesday, March 21, and the finals on Thursday, March 22, at Muncie Central High School, was the culmination of a six-week season.

The ICE League mission is to utilize sports and other activities to connect students and their parents to positive educational, healthy living and career pathway opportunities.

“The culmination of the League again this year showed the improvement all teams made from the beginning to the end of the season,” said ICE League Commissioner Tom Lyon. “We went from blow-out games early in the season to very competitive championship games. And towards the end of the season, we had kids bumping up from one and two quarters to four quarters and that’s the premise of our League.”


After the championship games Thursday night, the eighth-grade ICE League players with the highest GPAs were awarded $6,000 total in scholarships, which will be held by ICE League partners until the students graduate from high school. The scholarships will then be dispersed directly to the college or university the students attend.

The eighth-grade 2018 ICE League Academic All-Stars for the girls teams are:

  • Emily Adamowicz, YMCA, $667
  • McKenzie Durbin, Buley Center, $667
  • Makaiya Lowe, Buley Center, $667
  • Ashleigh Shaffer, Ross Center, $500
  • Garynn Sims-Jones, Boys & Girls Club, $500

    The eighth-grade 2018 ICE League Academic All-Stars for the boys teams are:

  • Isaac French, YMCA, $1,000
  • Woody Elliott, Boys & Girls Club, $500
  • Devin Foreman, Buley Center, $500
  • Zach Rawlings, YMCA, $334
  • Brennan Daily, Ross Center, $334
  • Adam Combs, Ross Center, $334


    In addition, 6th- and 7th-grade players in both the boys and girls divisions who were named Academic All-Stars received recognition plaques.

    Girls’ award winners:

  • ZaNiah Barnes, Ross Center
  • Karmesha Bradley, Buley Center
  • Rene’e DeBoy, YMCA
  • Layla Russell, Boys & Girls Club
  • Charity Wright, YMCA

    Boys’ award winners:

  • Carter Fisher, Boys & Girls Club
  • Aiden Franks, Buley Center
  • Trenton French, YMCA
  • William Huelsenbeck, Ross Center
  • Bryce Karnes, Ross Center


    One player from each division was named the Ron Bonham MVP for the season.

    The award is named for Muncie Central Bearcat player Ron Bonham who played from 1958 through 1960 and is, arguably, considered Central’s greatest player. Bonham went on to play college basketball for the University of Cincinnati and was later drafted by the Boston Celtics, helping them win the NBA title his first year there. Bonham returned to live in Muncie and died last year.

    The season MVP awards were voted on by League coaches. Players with 2.5 or higher GPA were eligible. The MVPs are:

  • Emily Adamowicz, on the YMCA team, and Garynn Sims-Jones, on the Boys & Girls Club girls’ division teams.
  • Princeton Young, on the Ross Center 6th/7th-grade boys’ division team.
  • Isaac French, on the YMCA 8th-grade boys’ division team.



    In the first title game of the night Thursday in the girls’ division, the YMCA team toppled the Boys & Girls Club team, 43-29. In the second championship game – the 6th/7th-grade boys’ division – the YMCA came away with a win again, defeating the Ross Center, 47-39. The final game of the night – the 8th-grade boys’ division – produced a three-game sweep for the YMCA, which defeated the Boys & Girls Club, 49-33.

    YMCA Coach Jannai Smith led all three teams to championship wins Thursday, bringing the veteran ICE League coach’s total championship record wins to five since the League’s inception. She summed up this year’s winning secret recipe in two words: Good kids. “It shows how hard work pays off, and they all worked so hard,” she said.

    Jannai calls the League design “genius.”

    “When you take a sport and hold it over kids and tell them what their expectations are and you don’t lead them away from those expectations, this is what you get – winners,” said Jannai who emphasized the importance of pushing students not only academically but mentally as well. “Kids need more encouragement,” she said. “Don’t try to complicate it. It’s simple. I give expectations because I know they can do it.”

    Project Leadership ICE League Coordinator Kaye Harrell applauded the community for coming together to offer an alterative to where the ICE League games have traditionally been played – in the Muncie Fieldhouse, which suffered damages last year. “Given the inability to use the Fieldhouse, we were fortunate to be able to use Southside during the regular season and Muncie Central for championship night,” Harrell said. “All players, coaches, and parents made the adjustments to make the League a big success again this year.”


    The ICE League is administered by Project Leadership and funded by the Ball Brothers Foundation. The League also is supported by Old National Bank/ Community Champions, Muncie Altrusa Foundation, and Friends of Muncie Endurathon. Partners include Muncie Community Schools and Burris Laboratory School as well as the four League centers – Boys & Girls Club, Buley Center, Ross Center and YMCA.

    Project Leadership recognizes the importance of education and the vital role it plays in a community’s well-being. To that end, Project Leadership creates and accelerates Delaware County and regional initiatives and programs that promote educational attainment and degree completion. It strives to improve quality of life and the economic health of communities, ensuring low-income students achieve an education with value in the marketplace through college access/completion.

    For more information, contact Project Leadership at 765-896-8616 or visit



At 30 minutes before Championship game time, the YMCA girls’ team races on a Muncie Central High School half court between goals to warm-up and practice game plays. Between the sound of shoes thundering across the wooden court and encouraging shouts among teammates, the camaraderie is evident. Smiles between plays are passed around as quickly as the ball. The team stops mid-court for a break in the action to talk about their experiences on the ICE League.

“Me first,” 8th-grade student Dayonna Hanyard says raising her hand and smiling broadly. “I love playing basketball because it keeps me out of trouble and keeps me on the right path.”

“This is different than other leagues,” she says.

One big difference: the strong emphasis the League places on character.

“This League helps me be a better person,” says Dayonna who played for the League as a 6th grader and again as an 8thgrader. “School ball teaches that but this gets the fundamentals down.”

Those fundamentals encompass both basketball skills and academics for 6th-grader Clarissa Jones. “I like the ICE League because it gives me a reason to get my homework done and gets me to know people and their strengths,” she said. “I’m more athletic now with skills I struggled in.”

As a two-year player in the ICE League, Camren McKenzie, who plays this year under Coach Jannai Smith with the YMCA, says she has benefitted from outstanding coaching. “The coaches push us harder and encourage us to try things we could never do before. Our coach helps us keep our grades up.”

Grades were not on the top of Charity Wright’s mind as the reason she first joined the League. She originally joined the League for one reason: “to get better at basketball.” She has since noticed other benefits. Improved grades is one. “I never thought about getting all As until the ICE League,” Charity said. Teamwork is another. “Even for the players who play against each other, we’re family,” she said.

For Rene’e DeBoy, a Northside student, playing in the ICE League is just plain fun. “It’s awesome to get to play against stronger people who can play better than me,” she says of the way the League has benefitted her basketball skills. But that’s not all. Going into the League, Rene’e says she was an A-B student. “Now I’m reaching for all As,” she says. “Not necessarily A pluses but As and A minuses.”

On Thursday night, Rene’e and her teammates together reached a goal together: the ICE League’s 2018 Girls’ Champions.





Brooklyn Clemens and her teammate Trinity Malone, both 7th-graders on the Boys and Girls team, were focused on their upcoming championship match against the YMCA as they warmed up before the big game.

“What we want is to just have an amazing experience in the championship,” said Brooklyn, who said she has really enjoyed being able to play in the ICE League this year. This is the first year both girls have played in the League.


Both Brooklyn and Trinity said they are four-quarter players because they keep GPAs that are above 2.5.


“But we want to keep our grades up to be able to play as much as possible,” Trinity said.



By ICE League   |   March 21, 2018

Twelve ICE League teams walked into Southside Middle School on Wednesday night, anxious and hopeful for the night’s semi-final games. Six teams emerged as winners and will face off in the 2018 ICE League Championship games Thursday, March 22, at Muncie Central High School:

–  GIRLS’ DIVISION: YMCA vs. Boys & Girls Club at 5:30 p.m.

–  6TH/7TH-GRADE BOYS’ DIVISION: YMCA vs. Ross Center at 6:50 p.m.

–  8th-GRADE BOYS’ DIVISION: YMCA vs. Boys & Girls Club at 8:10 p.m.

The Inner City Educational (ICE) League is a program of Project Leadership and is designed to motivate students to be strong student athletes as they move toward high school and post-secondary educations. An innovative initiative that leverages students’ love of sports while promoting stellar academics, the League is composed of 6th-8th grade boys and girls who are drafted to basketball teams at one of four ICE League member organizations: Boys & Girls Club of Muncie, Buley Center, Ross Center and YMCA.

In Season 4 of the ICE League, 94 student athletes are participating.

Academics are a League priority.

“I’m checking grades every day,” says ICE League Coach Jannai Smith. “When we hold them accountable, that’s what the ICE League is. For kids, it’s effective; it’s working.”

The ICE League sets the grade-point-average bar at 2.5 and higher for students who wish to fully participate in the League. A 2.5 GPA student is eligible to participate for four quarters in each game. A 2.3 to 2.49 GPA student is eligible for two quarters. And a 2.0 to 2.29 GPA student is eligible for one quarter.

Smith knows where her players are academically before each game.

If she needs a reminder, she turns to a folder containing her players’ names with rows of 4 quarter eligibility flowing down the columns.

That isn’t how the season started.

Eight of Smith’s 25 players were eligible only for one quarter of play at the beginning of the season because of their academics. Six weeks later, that number has dropped to only three players – one in each of the three teams she coaches.

As a part of ICE League Commissioner Tom Lyon’s responsibilities, he personally inspects the grades of every ICE League student athlete prior to each game to determine player eligibility. As the six-week season builds toward the championship games, Lyon sees an improvement in grades.
“Most of these kids are getting their grades bumped up,” Lyon says. “I don’t know of a league in the U.S. that’s doing what we’re doing.”

8th-grade ICE League players with the highest GPAs will be awarded $6,000 in scholarships at the conclusion of the ICE League Championship games Thursday. The scholarships will be held by the ICE League until students graduate from high school and will be dispersed to the college or university students attend. 6th and 7th-grade All-Star awards also will be given as well as Most Valuable Player awards.

For more information about the ICE League, contact Project Leadership at 765-896-8616 or visit